Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 11


‘Mankind must respect the integrity of the living system which is the planet Earth; in a real sense the earth has rights. The rights of humans should not supersede Earth rights, but rather be aligned and in balance with them to ensure the survival, diversity, sustainability and harmony of the planet. The pursuit of profit and the right of man to procreate does not supersede the right of the Earth to remain in biodiversity and free of danger from pollution’.

Peter Espeut
(Espeut, 2001)

Ethics may be defined as a system of moral principles which define appropriate conduct for an individual or group; or as the study of moral standards and how they affect behaviour.

Ethics is the study of ‘the ought’, while both the natural sciences and social sciences study ‘the is’. However, there are many concepts used in both the natural and social sciences, which are value-laden.

Once the scientist suggests a preference for healthy ecosystems and puts forward a strategy for conservation, ethical concepts have arisen. Conservation is an overtly value-laden concept, demanding that certain choices be made between competing uses of the terrestrial, riparian, coastal, aquatic or marine environment. Once the scientist decides to recommend measures to prevent species extinction, he has introduced the element of value into the equation and has become an activist.

The very concept of development – the preoccupation of all nations – contains many imbedded values such as advancement, improvement and progress. The judgement that democracy is the best form of government because of the role it gives to citizens is a value judgement. If it is agreed that there are many ethical statements already in scientific discourse – both natural and social – and that they enrich the discourse rather than impoverish it, the definition of the nature of science needs to be modified to openly accommodate this new dimension.

of mangroves
makes way 
for road 
Palau. 2002

Accepting the ideas proposed in the ‘Earth Rights Credo’, part of which is reproduced at the beginning of this chapter, relates back to many of the concepts discussed in Chapter 4 on Coastal Stewardship, specifically that mankind has a moral – or ethical – duty to use and manage the environment wisely, to enhance our existing quality of life and that of future generations. Many of these ideas are embedded in religions and cultures around the world. Similar ideas have been discussed in the ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’ forum (user name = csi, password = wise), e.g.:

Land to us in Papua New Guinea and to other native people of the world means our identity, culture, uniqueness and heritage. To us, the sea, the air, the birds and flowers, the trees, fish, reefs, all represent our cosmos and our universe. We refer to ‘mother earth’ as the provider. We are but temporary tenants who live off what she provides to sustain ourselves. What remains is for our future generations’. (Gaudi, 1999)

Ethical principles are fundamental to wise practices for conflict resolution and attention should be drawn here to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948, Paris, France), which is reproduced in Annex VI. 

Ensuring stakeholder input to management, planning and decision-making is one way to ensure that wise coastal practices are also ethical. Ways to provide for this such as Local Area Management Authorities and through wise practice agreements have already been discussed (Chapter 4).

All too rarely do ethical considerations enter into the decision-making process. Particularly in small islands, economic concerns outweigh other issues; however, there are exceptions. In Nevis in the 1990s, sand mining had been identified as a major cause of beach erosion, and was therefore of concern to the island and its government. In their search for solutions, the government decided to import sand from a neighbouring island, Barbuda. However, this action was not undertaken before a team from the Ministry of Housing and Lands in Nevis, including the Minister and Director of Planning, visited the sand mining site in Barbuda to ensure that the operation was being done in an environmentally sensitive manner, and that they were not just transferring their environmental problem to another island. Unfortunately, such examples are few in number.

The international lobbying effort by certain countries to gain the support of small islands in voting for the continuation of whaling and against the establishment of a whale sanctuary in the Pacific Ocean is another area where ethical issues are uppermost. 


Such codes of practice have been drawn up for specific groups and domains. They try to incorporate a moral dimension and to set out a code of behavioural principles.

There are several such models from which to choose. These documents come in several forms – codes, standards, charters, principles, declarations, policies, and guidelines, among others. They are usually prepared by organizations (often non-governmental) when there is no law or no adequate national or international laws existing to guide people in making particular decisions. They usually articulate a set of values based on notions of achieving the highest possible good.

In preparing a code of ethics, the following factors need to be taken into consideration:


There are many examples of codes of ethics, e.g. codes directed towards nations; institutions such as museums; and individuals/professionals such as artists, art dealers, terrestrial and marine archaeologists, historians, architects, landscape architects, writers, designers and engineers.

One such code, about which there is little general awareness, came out of the 1962 UNESCO General Conference, and was entitled ‘The Safeguarding of the Beauty and Character of Landscapes and Sites’ (UNESCO, 1962). This Recommendation/Code was adopted in 1962 before many small islands had gained their independence and joined UNESCO, which probably accounts for the lack of awareness about this Recommendation/Code, at least in small island states.

The Recommendation/Code recognizes the scientific and aesthetic value of landscapes and sites, and acknowledges that they form a heritage, which is a major factor in the living conditions of the general public. The Code calls for the implementation of protective measures to safeguard landscapes and sites, including special provisions in: urban and regional development plans, zoning, acquisition of sites by communities, creation and maintenance of natural reserves and national parks. Furthermore, it emphasizes the need for formal and informal education in order to awaken the public’s respect for its heritage and to catalyse the public’s involvement in protecting that heritage. This model addresses cultural and practical issues and draws attention to the intangible aspects of coastal regions.

Another and different type of code is the ‘St George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS, 2000).The St George’s Declaration was endorsed in November 2000, and signed by the majority of the Member States in April 2001. It recognizes that environmentally sustainable development is essential for the creation of jobs, a stable society, a healthy economy and the natural systems on which this depends. The Declaration consists of 21 principles ranging from poverty reduction to integrated disaster management, and from civil society and private sector participation in decision-making to the implementation of international environmental agreements. The governments of the OECS have adopted these principles and expressed their commitment to provide the resources required for their implementation.

Codes of ethics may also be directed towards specific groups of persons, e.g. ‘The International Federation of Landscape Architects Code of Ethics’ (IFLA, 2000). This code, which was adopted on 28 September 2000, recognizes certain ethical standards towards society and clients, to professional colleagues, and to the landscape and environment. In its commitments to society and clients, it seeks to promote the highest standard of professional service and to undertake public service to improve environmental systems. Within the context of professional colleagues, it advocates, among other things, to ensure that local culture, place and regulation are recognized by working with a local colleague when undertaking work in a foreign country. The section dealing with landscape and environment emphasizes the use of materials, products and processes, which exemplify the principles of sustainable management and landscape regeneration.

These are examples of three different ethical codes of practice, which have been prepared to advocate and pursue high standards and to clarify expectations, rather than as a basis for undertaking disciplinary action.

During the workshop the participants visited the site of a large coral farm, run by Applied Marine Technology Ltd., at Portsmouth, Dominica. They then discussed their observations in light of ethical considerations. 

Applied Marine Technologies Ltd. Coral Farm, Portsmouth, Dominica 

visiting the 
Coral Farm at 
Applied Marine 
Ltd., Portsmouth,
Dominica. 2001

The coral farm in Dominica is a fairly large operation which opened in 1999. Forty species of corals from Dominica and Indonesia are propagated in large tanks. Nets over the tanks are used to simulate different depths in the water column. There is an intake pipe from the sea to the farm and the seawater is purified as it enters the farm. A cement sluiceway takes the water back to the ocean.

For every one coral fragment removed from the offshore zone in Dominica, three are replaced. According to the company personnel, follow-up surveys of the replaced coral have shown only a 3% mortality rate. The corals from Indonesia are not transplanted to Dominica. The company is promoting an ‘Adopt-a-Coral Programme’ for tourists and visitors who, for a fee (US$ 65), can adopt a propagated coral. However, this programme has not yet received approval from the government of Dominica.

Corals from the farm have been used in reef reconstruction in Endeavour Bay, in Mustique, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and negotiations are underway for a similar project in Negril in Jamaica.

Dead corals from the farm are exported to the USA for use in the pharmaceutical industry and for bone reconstruction. The company personnel emphasized that only dead corals were used for this purpose.

The workshop participants, while recognizing that they did not know all the facts concerning this operation, and based only on their field visit to the site, identified the following ethical concerns regarding the coral farm:

Recognizing that mariculture operations can be beneficial, the participants made several suggestions which would ensure that an operation such as a coral farm could better meet ethical concerns in the future. These included the following:


Inclusion of the ethical dimension in the debate on coastal stewardship was a new subject area for many of the workshop participants. However, it was one of intense interest, which generated heated debate. One further avenue through which to further the discussion on the ethics of coastal stewardship is through the Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development forum where it could be adopted as a key theme (user name: csi, and password: wise).

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